Skilled volunteering: Benefits for the sector

NCVO is pleased to be part of the Skills Exchange Project, a Cabinet Office initiative to champion cross-sector skilled volunteering. We believe that skilled volunteering can benefit business, charities – and the volunteers themselves.

Responsible Business Week

We’re kicking off our support for the Skills Exchange project today to mark Business in the Community’s (BITC) Responsible Business Week. This annual awareness campaign is a real opportunity to demonstrate how business can have a positive impact, including through skills exchange with the voluntary sector.

For the voluntary sector, skilled volunteering offers skills and expertise, at a time when resources are much needed. The potential benefit of skills exchange for the sector is one of the opportunities presented by the government’s ‘three day’ employer supported volunteering pledge.

We have also advocated for businesses to recognise volunteering as more than CSR and to make the links between skilled volunteering and skills development, by better embedding it into HR and personal development.

My colleagues have already blogged about the benefits of volunteering for business – from the top three benefits to employee engagement and recognition. In this blog post, I want to look at the other side. How can skilled volunteering, backed by business, support voluntary sector organisations?

Working with business

To understand what the benefits of skills exchange can be, I asked Luljeta Nuzi from the Shpresa Programme, where I have volunteered, to explain how they have worked with businesses.

Shpresa is a user-led charity that promotes the participation and contribution of the Albanian-speaking community in the UK. Like many voluntary organisations, Shpresa is always looking for more resources to help it fulfil its mission.

Supported by the East London Business Alliance (ELBA), which connects businesses and the voluntary sector, Shpresa has found that working with business has proved one way of doing just that.

Luljeta Nuzi explains that Shpresa has hosted skilled volunteers from business to help with:

  • getting set up as a charity, from registration with the Charity Commission to leasing a building
  • governance, through support and advice for the board
  • mentoring, as employees volunteered to support young people from the Albanian-speaking community
  • activities, including fundraising events and employability workshops for young people.

Working with business has unlocked lots of resources, but it is not without challenges. Difficulty in maintaining longer term relationships; cultural differences; building trust in mentoring relationships; and volunteers’ competing work and time priorities have all been challenges for Shpresa.

Luli is nevertheless positive about the impact businesses have made to Shpresa. Some of the best outcomes were unintended. The volunteer who supported Shpresa’s board through their employer would go on to become a trustee themselves.

Best of all? Luli has found that engaging with volunteers supported by businesses has been really inspiring for Shpresa and the young people they support, showing how volunteering really is for everyone.

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Emily was NCVO’s trainee volunteering development policy officer. She is interested in policy around volunteering, particularly diversity in volunteering, employability, volunteering in public services, and employer supported volunteering.

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